In 1946, the idea for Children’s International Summer Villages
was born; and in 1951, eight countries gathered together in Cincinnati to bring founder Doris Allen’s dream of inspiring world peace to fruition.
Allen’s idea for a nonprofit organization stemmed from the devastation of World War II. As a child psychologist who studied development, she believed that peace would ultimately be up to our children.
Now more than 60 years after the first CISV, the nonprofit that started in Cincinnati continues to thrive; and it has grown into an international sub-organization of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization,
with chapters in more than 60 countries, that host 180 village experiences and international programs a year.
Catherine Bell, a 16-year-old student at Turpin High School,
went to her first village
at the age of 11. For one month, she lived in a camp-like setting at a monastery in a mountainous region of South Korea, where she spent time learning and growing with other 11-year-olds from countries around the world.
“At a village, it’s mostly about instilling good morals and building a basis for you to make your opinion—you gain leadership,” says Bell, who now serves as CISV Cincinnati’s junior branch president. “The reason the founder chose 11 [-year-olds] was because you’re old enough to make decisions, but you don’t have previous judgments and your mind is clear—you don’t have any biases.”
Bell’s village experience began with a homestay, where she says she lived with a host family so she could experience the South Korean culture for a few days. Then she, along with the other delegates—composed of two boys and two girls from each of the 12 represented countries—went to their village, where Bell says they engaged in fun activities like capture the flag. But they also participated in activities that while enjoyable, had a deeper meaning.
“During lunch, we did some activities about disabilities, where I might be tied to someone else’s arm, and you have to eat together or you aren’t allowed to speak,” says Bell.
Bell says the activities, debriefs and general unity that resulted from living with people who were initially complete strangers enabled her and others to gain leadership skills and develop lasting friendships.
“At 11, there’s no weird tension between boys and girls, and I felt like I was best friends with every single person, and we just grew together,” says Bell. “I don’t have any words to describe it because it’s just—it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
If it weren’t for the friendships she made and the confidence she gained through her learning experiences and time away from home, Bell says she’s not sure she would be as fearless as she is today.
“Before getting into CISV, I was really shy, and I had friends, but I’m also the middle child, so I’m very independent and I internalize a lot of things,” she says. “I really learned to open up, and I have no problems speaking in front of people. I’m so much more outgoing, and I think that is just such a gift to go from this shy little girl to this outgoing person who can speak their mind.”
for 5K The Global Way
, which takes place March 16. Proceeds help fund CISV Cincinnati programs and activities.
• Learn about volunteer opportunities
so that you can get involved with CISV Cincinnati.
• Learn about the various programs
for youth and adults, and consider joining the Cincinnati chapter of CISV.
By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.